Ahead of the new season, the ever-popular Season Handicap market has been released for the 23/24 Premier League season.
For those new to the market, each team is assigned a points total which essentially acts as a head start for the season.
At the end of the campaign, each team’s handicap is added to their actual points total, and whoever finishes with the most points wins.
Keep in mind, the team you back must finish above all other teams after all handicaps have been added. See last season’s final table as an example below.
Anywhere around the mid-90s would typically be a strong season with 100+ usually required to win, but with a number of teams grossly underperforming last season, 100 wasn’t even enough for a place.
|2020/21||West Ham +44||109|
|2019/20||Sheffield United +52||106|
|2017/18||Man City +0||100|
Manchester City +0
Manchester City start off scratch once again, meaning no points will be added to their final total. There’s been a slight drop-off in City’s tallies in recent seasons, averaging 89 points across their last three seasons, winning the title each time.
It’s hard to see City not reaching the high 80s again at the bare minimum, but they’ll need to revert to their 2017-2019 efforts off 100 and 98 points to challenge for the season handicap.
So begins the first of the pretenders to the throne. It’s very easy to see any of five sides finishing runners-up this season, assuming they don’t oust City at the top, and Arsenal are the favourites to do so.
The Gunners performed way beyond expectations last season to run City close in the title race, ultimately stumbling in the closing stages.
Simply reaching the top four would’ve been seen as a big success at the start of the campaign and Arsenal were given a 20-point start, cut in half for the new season.
The Gunners looked set to finish first in the handicap market before back-to-back losses to Brighton and Nottingham Forest, as Brentford beat Manchester City on the final day.
It’s a rarity to see Liverpool given such a big start having been neck and neck with Manchester City in a number of recent seasons.
The Reds amassed 97 points in 2019, falling one short of City, going one better the following season to finally claim the Premier League title, and were one point short again in 2022.
Despite being hit by injuries last season, their campaign fell a long way below the standards set by Jurgen Klopp since his arrival. But with new signings and what he hopes will be a fully fit squad, there’s every chance Liverpool can push City close once again.
Manchester United +14
An impressive debut season for Erik ten Hag saw Manchester United briefly enter the title race, sparking fanciful talks of a quadruple. Ultimately, the strenuous fixture list became too much for United, who crashed out of the Europa League to Sevilla and lost in the FA Cup final to rivals Manchester City.
But a trophy and a return to the Champions League is realistically as much as any United fan could’ve asked for at the start of the season, and they can now look ahead.
They still desperately need a centre forward, but with a midfield reinforcement in Mason Mount at the club and a new keeper in the form of Andre Onana set to arrive, things are starting to take shape at Old Trafford.
Despite falling three points short in the handicap, Newcastle were arguably the most impressive side in the league last term.
From battling relegation to securing Champions League football in 18 months was a remarkable effort from Eddie Howe.
Though there are two caveats for Newcastle in the coming season. Firstly, they were in the fortuitous position of seeing the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham falls miles short of what was expected of them.
Secondly, they now have Champions League football to contend with.
The signing of Sandro Tonali takes their net spend in the last 18 months to around the £350m mark and they’ll likely need more reinforcements ahead of the new campaign, but if they can handle the rigours of European football, the Toon could be set for another exciting season.
One of Chelsea’s biggest problems last season was a hugely bloated squad and the fact they went through three managers.
Neither should be an issue this time around.
In Mauricio Pochettino, they have a world class manager, and with the likes of Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Mateo Kovacic, Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Cesar Azpilicueta and N’Golo Kante all leaving, they’ve had the much-needed clear-out.
If new boys Christopher Nkunku and Nicolas Jackson hit the ground running, Chelsea could well make a run at the top four.
If there’s still a ‘big six’ in English football, it may be that Tottenham are no longer part of it.
Ange Postecoglou looks a shrewd appointment and is sure to bring a more attractive style of football back to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
But while James Maddison should provide some creative spark, Harry Kane’s future remains unknown, and much of Tottenham’s success will hang on whether they can keep their talisman.
Arguably the best-run club in the Premier League, Brighton’s net spend in the last two seasons is around -£60m while they’ve gone from 16th to 9th to 6th.
The likes of Kaoru Mitoma, Julio Enciso and Pervis Estupinan were hardly household names but have all made terrific contributions since arriving on the south coast – even Roberto De Zerbi has been an improvement despite having to take over from Graham Potter, who’d done a terrific job at the Amex in his three seasons there.
But with a handicap of +30 this season, the Seagulls will have to match last season’s 62 points at the very least in order to contend in the season handicap market.
Aston Villa +32
If you extrapolate Unai Emery’s 1.96 points per game since taking the reins at Aston Villa over a whole season, the Villans find themselves on a whopping 74 points.
Only Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City took more points from 1st November 2022 than Aston Villa, whose fans have plenty to be excited heading into the new campaign.
There’s no shortage of talent in the Villa squad, which they’ve been able to retain, while adding Youri Tielemens to their ranks.
It’s been a quiet transfer window so far, but there’s still another month to bring in more players, with the likes of Wilfried Gnonto and Harvey Barnes linked.
West Ham +38
One of the 22/23 season’s biggest underperformers, West Ham will need a significant improvement to get anywhere near winning the season handicap after reaching just 40 points last term.
They’ll also have to adjust to the massive loss of their captain as Declan Rice swapped East London for North, and having won the Europa Conference League, the Hammers will contend in Europe once again.
But if they can write off last season as an anomaly and return to the form of their previous two campaigns where they recorded 65 and 56 points, they’ll have every chance of a place in the season handicap.
Last season’s winners, Brentford have lost only six points on the handicap after losing Ivan Toney for the first half of the season.
But it’s worth remembering, the Bees took 13 points from a possible 15 when Toney was missing last season, beating Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City.
It looks like Brentford will retain keeper David Raya despite adding Mark Flekken to their ranks, while Kevin Schade will strengthen their attacking options.
Crystal Palace +42
The loss of Wilfried Zaha, who was often good for 15 goal contributions a season, will certainly hurt Crystal Palace, and the decision to retain Roy Hodgson, who’ll be 76 at the start of the season, raised a few eyebrows considering the club parted ways with him not two years earlier.
But Hodgson did steady what was becoming an increasingly rocky ship. Though Palace were unlikely to go down considering the weaknesses of the teams below them, the progress made under Patrick Vieira was being undone.
Hodgson managed to take 18 points from his 10 games in charge, with the Eagles becoming an unfamiliarly attacking outfit, and if they can continue that form over a whole season, European football might even be on the cards.
One of the biggest over-achievers last season, Fulham came joint-third in the season handicap table.
By the end of the campaign, after the Cottagers had started dropping points in Aleksandar Mitrovic’s absence, the job done by Marco Silva began to go under the radar somewhat.
However there are reasons for caution heading into the new campaign. Fulham hugely outperformed their xG last season, with relegated Leicester’s xG significantly better.
There are also reports that – while key man Joao Palhinha might still be at Craven Cottage come September – Mitrovic may be heading to Saudi Arabia, and his 14 goals from 24 games will be extremely tough to replace.
Sean Dyche did a fine job in steering Everton to safety last season, but a club of such stature cannot be fighting relegation every year.
So much of the Toffees’ issues have come from aimless recruitment, and with no marquee signings arriving at Goodison Park so far this season, it will take all of Dyche’s guile to keep Everton out of trouble.
However, most of the clubs in the bottom half of the Premier League are much of a muchness – last season, nearly all of them flirted with relegation at some point – and if Everton can take more points from those around them, they could finish safely in mid-table.
Julen Lopetegui did a terrific job in guiding Wolves away from relegation having arrived with the club rock bottom of the table.
But the squad is in need of an overhaul, and with hefty sums spent on Matheus Nunes and Matheus Cunha, there were reports that Lopetegui would seek an exit unless given assurances that the squad would be significantly strengthened.
The Spaniard remains at the club, but it could be a long season in the Black Country.
Championship winners, by and large, enjoy successful first seasons in the top flight. In recent years, with the exception of Norwich, who’ve always seemed comfortable going back down, Fulham (10th), Leeds (9th), Wolves (7th) and Newcastle (10th) all finished in the top half, while Burnley (16th), Bournemouth (16th) and Leicester (14th) before them all survived.
Vincent Kompany remains in Lancashire despite reported interest from Tottenham over the summer, and he’ll be hopeful of bringing the 17-goal striker back to Turf Moor.
With a possession-heavy style of football, Kompany is unlikely to compromise his values, and should feel confident of securing Premier Football for at least one more year.
Nottingham Forest +50
With just one win away from home last season, their success at the City Ground will be crucial for Nottingham Forest.
But, as with many of their potential relegation rivals, if they can survive, then they shouldn’t be far off the places in the handicap table.
The biggest challenge for Steve Cooper last season was getting a brand new squad to gel. There are no such concerns this time, and Cooper will be hoping his men avoid second season syndrome.
The decision to sack Gary O’Neil – one of the managers of the season – looked very harsh at first. But the immediate appointment of Andoni Iraola showed the Cherries mean business.
With no disrespect to O’Neil, the Spaniard is a substantial upgrade having spent three seasons with Rayo Vallecano. He took Rayo up in his first season in charge, following up with a run to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, finishing 12th and 11th in La Liga despite operating with a modest budget.
Should all go to plan on the south coast, Cherries fans should have no concerns over relegation this season.
Sheffield United +54
The 2019/20 season handicap winners return to the Premier League after an excellent season in the Championship in which they finished second behind Burnley.
Sheffield United were given 52 points in 2019/20 as they finished in mid-table and have two more this time around.
The Blades caught many sides off guard with Chris Wilder’s unusual style utilising overlapping centre-backs, and though Paul Heckingbottom hasn’t strayed too far from Wilder’s vision, it will be a tough ask to keep the Bramall Lane side in the top flight.
It goes without saying that Premier League new boys Luton will need to make Kenilworth Road a fortress.
Well fancied for the drop, it’s tough to make a case for the Hatters to retain their place in the Premier League, and even with a 56-point start, they’ll need to avoid relegation and then some to contend for the season handicap.